Ācārya Bhadrabāhu (c. 367 - c. 298 BCE) was, according to the Digambara sect of Jainism, the last Shruta Kevalin (all knowing by hearsay, that is indirectly) in Jainism but Śvētāmbara, believes the last Shruta Kevalin was Acharya Sthulabhadra, but was forbade by Bhadrabahu from disclosing it.[1][2] He was the last acharya of the undivided Jain sangha. He was the spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Maurya Empire.[3]

According to the Digambara sect of Jainism, there were five Shruta Kevalins in Jainism - Govarddhana Mahamuni, Vishnu, Nandimitra, Aparajita and Bhadrabahu.[4]

Bhadrabahu was born in Pundravardhana (now in Bangladesh) to a Brahmin family[5] during which time the secondary capital of the Mauryas was Ujjain. When he was seven, Govarddhana Mahamuni predicted that he will be the last Shruta Kevali and took him along for his initial education.[4] He was then initiated as a Jain Muni and by practicing gyan (wisdom), dhyan (meditation), tap (austerities) and sanyam (equanimity) attainted the status of Acharya.

According to Śvētāmbara tradition, he lived from 433 BCE to 357 BCE.[6] Digambara tradition dates him to have died in 365 BC.[7]

On the night of full moon in the month of Kartik, Chandragupta Maurya (founder and ruler of Maurya Empire) saw sixteen dreams, which were then explained to him by Acharya Bhadrabahu.[8]

Stella showing the transmission of the oral tradition (Photo: Marhiaji, Jabalpur)

Bhadrabahu was in Nepal for a 12-year penitential vow when the Pataliputra conference took place in 300 BCE to put together the Jain canon anew. Bhadrabahu decided the famine would make it harder for monks to survive and migrated with a group of twelve thousand disciples to South India,[10][11] bringing with him Chandragupta, turned Digambara monk.[12][9]

According to the inscriptions at Shravanabelgola, Bhadrabahu died after taking the vow of Sallekhana.[13]

According to Svetambaras, Bhadrabahu was the author of Kalpa Sūtra,[14] four Chedda sutras, commentaries on ten scriptures, Bhadrabahu Samhita and Vasudevcharita.[15][5]

Bhadrabahu was the last acharya of the undivided Jain sangha. After him, the Sangha split into two separate teacher-student lineages of monks. Digambara monks belong to the lineage of Acharya Vishakha and Svetambara monks follow the tradition of Acharya Sthulibhadra.[citation needed]

Regarding the inscriptions describing the relation of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya, Radha Kumud Mookerji writes,

The oldest inscription of about 600 AD associated "the pair (yugma), Bhadrabahu along with Chandragupta Muni." Two inscriptions of about 900 AD on the Kaveri near Seringapatam describe the summit of a hill called Chandragiri as marked by the footprints of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta munipati. A Shravanabelagola inscription of 1129 mentions Bhadrabahu "Shrutakevali", and Chandragupta who acquired such merit that he was worshipped by the forest deities. Another inscription of 1163 similarly couples and describes them. A third inscription of the year 1432 speaks of Yatindra Bhadrabahu, and his disciple Chandragupta, the fame of whose penance spread into other words.[12]